Document created: 1 June 03
Air & Space Power Journal - Summer 2003
Enlarging NATO: The National Debates edited by Gale A. Mattox and Arthur R. Rachwald. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. (http://www.rienner. com), 1800 30th Street, Suite 314, Boulder, Colorado 80301, 2001, 324 pages, $59.95 (hardcover).
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) lost its historical reason for being. The demise of the Communist bloc coincided with Western European debates in the 1990s over the economic union. For the first time in decades, Europe had to redefine itself. No longer did Europe solely constitute the West, with Eastern and Central states on its periphery. As the former Communist states sought new economic, political, and military relationships with the West, NATO could either go away or grow to the east. If it went away, what would replace it? In the absence of a clear alternative, NATO still had a reason for being. The issues became how large it should be, how fast it could grow, and what it could do about the nonmembers- outsiders but no longer enemies. These questions had different answers in different countries as well as within the affected states. The broad decision for NATO enlargement was simple- the devil, as always, was in the details. Interestingly, if not surprisingly, the most common reaction was indifference. Governments and intellectuals dominated the debates. The various publics, having other interests or no inclination toward foreign matters short of war, tended toward apathy.
The editors have assembled a diverse group of scholars- academic and otherwise- each assigned the task of dealing with one of the countries affected by enlargement. The nations fall into three natural categories: old members, new members, and outsiders. The old members include the United States, France, Germany, England, and Italy. The new members are Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The outsiders include Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Estonia. Not surprisingly, even within the three groups, the enlargement debate depends upon history, geography, politics, diplomacy, and other aspects of the national individualities. As the leading European power and no longer the gateway for an invasion of the West by the Soviet bloc, Germany responded to the enlargement into Eastern Europe differently than did France, with its wounded pride, or the United States, the distant giant. Britain took NATO for granted and didn’t debate significantly; Italy downplayed the issue because the Communists in the governing coalition opposed NATO on any terms.
Naturally, the insiders had different issues than the outsiders. Some of the latter remembered Munich, the Stalin-Hitler nonaggression agreement, and Yalta. Another outsider, Ukraine, still does not know whether it looks to Russia or to the West. Russia is not exactly sure of its direction without the empire; although not the most trusted of states, it is still a force to be tiptoed around lightly. Every state in Europe had to deal with the question of how an enlarged NATO would affect it.
Other concerns, both foreign and domestic, have taken center stage in the world, but the enlargement debates continue, however quietly. At this writing, NATO is preparing to enlarge again, with nine candidates vying for inclusion and all the advantages it holds. Again, at least in the United States, there doesn’t seem to be much interest.
This collection, however limited, provides interesting insights into the many considerations that went into the first phase of post–Cold War growth. The world has changed since, and a gap between the United States and many of the European NATO members is widening. Still, NATO enlargement will occur because it is not a major issue- but it is important. We will need an update or a sequel to this work in the not-too-distant future.
The quality of the reports varies, as does the depth and degree of scholarship. Generally, though, the articles are good syntheses, relying mostly on public documents and media articles. Enlarging NATO is worth reading, but it will soon be dated and, thus, is probably not deserving of a prominent place on the reader’s bookshelf.
John H. Barnhill
Tinker AFB, Oklahoma
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.